Monday, May 23, 2016

A View from Karen Pashley's Window - Precious In His Sight

I've not yet read this story, but was intrigued to talk with the author who has written a story that is speaking to so many who are walking through the war zone of infidelity.  Join me as I visit with Karen about her novel and her journey to publication!

Adultery, forgiveness, mercy….quite a combination of areas to tackle in a first novel! Can you give readers insight to the inspiration behind your story?

It sounds corny, but this entire story—the characters, the settings, the dilemma they face, it all came to me and played out in my mind like a movie while on a summer road trip through the mountains. I thought about it often, and more than two years later, I challenged myself to the task of transforming it into a novel. I’ve always felt called to encourage women, and am passionate about sharing the hope that Christ offers us. During the very long writing process (seven years) I went through some difficult health and family hardships that then translated into the struggles my characters faced. It was as if my journey (though not similar to the story line at all) became woven into the fabric of the novel.

Where do you think believers stumble the most when it comes to forgiveness and mercy?
I think our American Christian culture tends to compartmentalize sin into categories of our choosing. Some sin is tolerated as being a “struggle,” an “issue I’m working on,” or excused as being “part of the times we are living in.” While other sins represent lines in the sand that some Christians see as intolerable, and,more detestable than others. I wonder, though, on the day we all stand before the Lord, what it will be like when we realize that every single one of us are in the same boat, and need the same cleansing blood of Jesus. I wonder what we will think of our fellow sinners then. I hope we will all be elated that Jesus paid the price for us all, and He didn’t discriminate based on the labels we place on each other. Especially in the light of a grievous betrayal? Certainly, we all struggle with forgiveness. But, if we place our focus on Christ—on His love for us, and His good plans to turn a dark situation into something that glorifies Him, I know forgiveness is possible—and it is powerful. I’m not saying it’s easy. But aren’t the rewards of living free from bitterness worth it? How do we get there, you ask? Only through a daily, hourly, minute-by-minute surrender to His will, and by renewing our mind continually with the Word of God. Do you think, as a whole, that sometimes the church isn’t clear on the difference between contractual and covenant relationships? I don’t know that I’m qualified to have an opinion on that, but I think that if the members of the body of Christ could redirect their thoughts from their problems and the source of their problems and instead focus solely on the person of Christ and what He means to them individually, then relationships in general would thrive.

Do you think this is a novel that will have any appeal at all to someone whose life has been impacted by adultery and betrayal? Why or why not?

I’ve heard from women whose marriages ended after an adulterous situation, and they have found hope and comfort as they read about the main character and her struggle to forgive. That being said, I did hear from one woman who was finding it hard to read some of those deeply painful emotions, as they brought old wounds to the surface. I tried to be sensitive to readers’ real life scenarios as I wrote the book. I believe if someone is open to allowing God to minister to her broken heart, then she can receive hope and a lifting of her spirit by the end of this story. That’s my prayer—that by the end of the book, no matter what your journey has been, that you will feel hopeful and encouraged that with God all things are possible, and that He brings beauty out of ashes.

You made a statement recently; “We must work with God rather than running from Him in our hardships. We must never lose our hope. Storms will come. We shouldn’t fear them. With God, we can persevere with dignity and joy.” Can you expound on this a bit for your readers?

In my personal experience, I tend to handle difficulties much like a toddler pitching a fit. I immediately react with clenched fists, frustration, overwhelming fear—and in those moments of insanity, in the rush of emotions that flood my mind, I take my eyes off of the Lord. Thankfully, God is not put off by my outbursts. He understands my agony, and my humanness. He does not say, “Well, now you’ve pushed me too far. We’re done.” I’m so thankful He is a forgiving and merciful Father! So, when my runaway train of emotions finally comes to a halt, I unclench my fists, and I push the reset button. In an instant, Jesus is there, with outstretched arm, whispering, “Take my hand. Let’s walk this difficult road together. I’ll not leave you, I promise. We’ll get through it together.” I’ve learned that it is possible to experience peace and serenity even in the midst of intense pain and hardship. The hardship doesn’t disappear, but hand in hand with the Lord, I find strength.

Ultimately, we cannot place our hope solely in our desired outcome of a situation. We must place our hope in the person of Jesus Christ—He alone is the hope of glory in us and through us.

What have you learned about the writing process now that your first book has been published?

That it is much, much more than just writing a good story. There are revisions. And then revisions of the revisions. Editing, marketing, developing relationships with people in the industry and with readers—writing is not for the faint of heart!

Are you able to give us a sneak peek into your writing schedule and tell us if there are any more stories that are waiting in the wings?

Sure! I am almost finished with a novel study guide that will be a companion to ‘Precious in His Sight.’ It’s a compilation of personal stories that relate to the deep themes in the novel, along with biblical insights, questions for group or individual reflection, and journal prompts. I think it will be great for bible studies and women’s groups as a short term workshop. And for book clubs who want to dig a little deeper as a follow up to the novel. I’m also working on a sequel to “Precious in His Sight,’ and am looking forward to offering it to fans of the first book early in 2017.

How has the journey to publication impacted your faith journey?

During the course of this seven year writing journey, I went through some pretty intense storms of my own. I battled a debilitating and violent illness that was very tough. My family and I were blindsided by the heartbreaking discovery that one of our children was battling an opiate addiction. Some days, it was hard just to get out of bed and keep going, and yet, when I sat at my computer and thought about the characters in this book, the tough circumstances in my own journey, and my struggle to see God’s goodness in any of it, my experience became part of the characters’ journey. Putting myself into each of the characters’ shoes led me to a deeper understanding of God’s faithfulness and His daily outpouring of love for me. 

What words of encouragement would you like to share with others who are working toward

First, there a many viable options to get your work published. Don’t be shy! Seek out other writers and published authors and ask questions. Writers are the most generous people I’ve ever known when it comes to sharing their knowledge, experience and time. And resolve to be patient! You’ll go through ups and downs, you’ll blow your writing goals from time to time, and you’ll feel like quitting once in a while. Stick with it. The reward of completing something that is uniquely you is worth all the late nights, cramped fingers, and re-writes. Persevere, trust God, and have fun.

Precious In His Sight by Karen Pashley

About the Book:
A determined wife, her guilt-ridden husband, and the other woman, whose struggle may set them all free . . .

What if your husband was cheating? What would you do?

Feisty, tenacious, and adorably flawed, Sugar Brennan is fiercely committed to her family, her traditional Christian values, and her spotless reputation in her affluent Southern community. When she discovers her husband Clay has been unfaithful, Sugar is determined to right the wrongs in her life.

Then Clay's former mistress returns to Westfield with devastating news, posing a heart-wrenching dilemma that challenges Sugar to rethink all she's believed about faith, family, and the healing power of forgiveness.

She's been raised in a preacher's home, taught to love her enemies.

She's got the fish sticker on her car and a collection of good works under her belt.

But . . . reach out to the woman who nearly destroyed her marriage? Surely God wouldn't ask her to go that far.

I've not yet read this book, but have lived the reality that threatens this marriage.  My marriage didn't survive the storm, but I'm intrigued to find out how this character handles the situation.  Number One on the Christian fiction reading list since it hit the shelves, I'm quite certain it is making a positive impact.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Someone Like You by Victoria Bylin - REVIEWED

About the Book:
Someone Like You (Bethany House, May 2016)

Single mom Julia Dare has a lot on her plate.

A brand new Christian, Julia is busy trying to run her own business, spend time with her widowed mother, and raise her young son, Max, despite his father's less-than-ideal influence on him. When a big account from her event-planning business sends her to the Caliente Springs resort, she's shocked to come face-to-face with Zeke Monroe, the resort's general manager and her college sweetheart.

With his faith in tatters, Zeke Monroe is determined to keep the historic Caliente Springs resort running despite financial difficulties. But when Julia walks back into his life, he can't ignore the feelings she stirs up. As they work together on an important client's dream wedding, the fate of the resort soon depends on their success. When Zeke and Julia are pushed to their limits both personally and professionally, will their history put up walls between them or bring them together?

Purchase you copy HERE.

My Thoughts: 
“Tap…Tap…Tap.”  (p. 266)

I’m not going to spoil this…sound…and reveal its source, but I want you to listen for it as you read Victoria Bylin’s book, Someone Like You.  This is THE BEST and most REALISTIC story of relationships I’ve read lately!!  I was expecting something far different from the treasure  I found!

This novel deals with many kinds of relationships - familial, romantic and spiritual.  Bylin weaves all of these relationships together seamlessly and the result is breathtaking!  I can’t really share too much, because I don’t want to spoil a moment!  But if you will listen for the “tap…tap…tap…” you will enjoy the richness of its conclusion more that I can begin to describe!

I think what spoke to me the most was the fact that the main characters were realistically flawed , and they had embraced what they perceived to be failure , and that perception was coloring their entire world.  Does sin have consequence?  Most certainly! Can God redeem those consequences?  Definitely!! Julia and Zeke’s story is a beautiful story of God’s grace and mercy that will impact your faith in a powerful way! 

Don’t miss this novel!! It is a treasure of great value!  So much to enjoy! So much to digest!  So many rich blessings to take away!!  And read this novel with your ears open….Tap. Tap. Tap.

About the Author:

Victoria Bylin writes contemporary and historical romances known for their realistic, relatable characters. Her work has finaled in contests such as the Carol Awards, the RITAs, and the RT Reviewers' Choice Award. A native of California, she and her husband now make their home in Lexington, Kentucky.

Check out the great give-away HERE!!

Monday, May 16, 2016

My Toddler Bible - REVIEW

About the Book:
Fans of Chris Embleton-Hall's cheerfully distinctive artwork will be eager to see this new Bible! Twenty stories--nine from the Old Testament and eleven from the New--are retold in a concise and friendly manner in a rounded, easy-to-read font. Very, very bright, and very, very fun!

My Thoughts:
I know it is a small detail for many, but the second story in the Toddler Bible was a put-off to the intention and accuracy of this entire book.  The author chose illustrations that show Adam and Eve dressed in fig leaves as they till the soil and  plant seed.  She totally negates the first blood sacrifice and the need for blood to cover sin.

I thought the whole point of introducing toddler’s to God’s Word was to begin to teach them their need for a Savior.  Yes, the crucifixion is included, as is the resurrection, but even toddlers need to know that God’s plan of redemption was in place from the moment Adam and Eve left the garden.  Yes the redemptive parables are included, (lost sheep, prodigal son) and some of the miracles of Jesus, so this  is a basic introduction of the major and most well-known Bible stories.

The illustrations are engaging and colorful, and the language is simple and straightforward.  This is a good introduction to God’s Word for any toddler.  My only complaint is that a very important detail was passed over, and that was off-putting to me.  Accuracy should be paramount when God’s Word is being represented. 

About the Author:
Juliet David has written many children's stories and Bible activity books. Her other interests include painting, music, and travel to Israel and other Bible lands. This experienced author lives in London with her family.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Sister Dear by Laura McNeill - REVIEWED

About the Book:
Sister Dear (Thomas Nelson, April 2016)

All Allie Marshall wants is a fresh start. But when dark secrets refuse to stay buried, will her chance at a new life be shattered forever?

Convicted of a crime she didn't commit, Allie watched a decade of her life vanish --- time that can never be recovered. Now, out on parole, Allie is determined to clear her name, rebuild her life, and reconnect with the daughter she barely knows.

But Allie's return home shatters the quaint, coastal community of Brunswick, Georgia. Even her own daughter Caroline, now a teenager, bristles at Allie's claims of innocence. Refusing defeat, a stronger, smarter Allie launches a battle for the truth, digging deeply into the past even if it threatens her parole status, personal safety, and the already-fragile bond with family.

As her commitment to finding the truth intensifies, what Allie ultimately uncovers is far worse than she imagined. Her own sister has been hiding a dark secret---one that holds the key to Allie's freedom.

Buy your copy HERE!!

My Thoughts:
People accepted the stories they were told.” (p. 77)

This one sentence – simple, innocuous and found early in Laura McNeill’s story – captures a profound truth.  It make me almost hyperventilate when I face this truth in all of its meaning.  Yes, this story captures a completely human, and very Southern, way of behavior – keeping secrets and twisting the truth so other believe the reality you need them to believe so you can gain the support for your own twisted motives.

Okay, I know this is a strong statement, birthed out of my own life being torn to shreds by secrets and lies and manipulation…and thankfully, my reality wasn’t as brutal as Allie Marshall’s in the book!! But oh, how I related to the depth of the deception she faced at the end of this story!!  Oh my!! If this author isn’t Southern, then she has studied their behavior very carefully!  Good grief!! Makes me skin crawl!

This is a fabulously told tale that captures the insidious nature of pride, the secrets that it keeps, and the manipulation needed to keep said pride intact!  The totally sold out, I-don’t-care-who-gets-hurt belief that your own story/needs/desires trump everyone else.  Oh my word!! This story nails it!!

You will bite your fingernails OFF before you reach the end!!  It is good!  But oh my!! Too close to home!! Still shivering!!!    I HATE secrets!!  HATE ‘em!! 

About the Author:
Laura McNeill is a writer, web geek, travel enthusiast, and coffee drinker. In her former life, she was a television news anchor for CBS News affiliates in New York and Alabama. Laura holds a master's degree in journalism from The Ohio State University and is completing a graduate program in interactive technology at the University of Alabama. When she's not writing and doing homework, she enjoys running, yoga, and spending time at the beach. She lives in Mobile, AL with her family.

I'm Reading intermittently through major life changes. Review tomorrow....

Please be patient.  I'm still here!!

Monday, May 9, 2016

The End of Law by Therese Down - REVIEWED

About the Book:
Two SS officers—both involved in Hitler's Final Solution, both in love with a beautiful woman— but only one can live with his conscience 
Therese Down delivers a powerful story set in Berlin in the 1930s and early 1940s and woven around the fortunes of three people: an ambitious SS officer, Walter Gunter; his naĆ­ve wife, Hedda; and a guilt-ridden SS officer, Karl Muller.

Gunter— intensely loyal to the Third Reich, entirely ruthless, with dreams of military renown—is outraged to be placed in charge of the T4 euthanasia program.

Muller, an engineer and trainee doctor, reluctantly oversees the safe delivery of lethal gases and drugs to the killing centers, and is required to convert shower rooms and bathrooms into gas chambers in commandeered hospitals and prisons. Both detest their jobs.

Meanwhile Hedda is treated with increasing brutality by her sadistic and permanently enraged husband. Desperate to protect her two young children, she faces agonizing choices of her own.

A magnificent and meticulously researched novel based on real people and events, The End of Law focuses on the difficult moral choices made by soldiers and civilians under a corrupt regime, and on the disruptive power of an awakened conscience.

My Thoughts:
The decade between 1935-1945 was brutal in many ways.  Germany suffered the most nightmarish part of the atrocities of that decade under Hitler’s evil regime.  Therese Down captures the brutality of this time period from many viewpoints, but primarily through the eyes of an SS Officer and his wife and children.  As the decade progresses and the atrocities increase in number and brutality, the effect of that horror becomes evident in the lives of this family.

Yes, there is a transformational change in the life where faith hangs on with brute tenaciousness, but overall this book captures the hopelessness and darkness that reigned throughout all those who suffered through this era.  I think this is an important book for that very reason.  We need to remember so we are not tempted to repeat those same atrocities.

I think Down’s  work is brilliant, detailed, realistic and engaging.  Her characters  - from SS Officer Walter Gunther to his innocent daughter so bravely defended by her mother – all are made real through her writing.  Many are based on real life characters, and that adds even more depth.

It is a book that is hard to put down.  I can’t call it an enjoyable read, but it is most certainly significant and style and content!  I HIGHLY recommend this novel!

About the Author:
Therese Down is currently working as the Head of English at a High School in England and has been teaching English Literature and Language for over twenty years in a range of schools and colleges. She holds a MA in Employment Law and is experienced in personnel management.